The Thirty first meeting of the Council of Ministers of Tourism convened this morning, at the Edgewater Resort and Spa in the Cook Islands. In his opening address Council Chairman Hon. Tingika Elikana (Associate Minister for Tourism for the Cook Islands) commended the work of the Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) and its ongoing commitment to members, despite the long, drawn-out challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hon. Elikana also acknowledged the important discussions undertaken ahead of the Council meeting, at the SPTO Board of Directors meeting and the inaugural Pacific Sustainable Tourism Leadership Summit (PSTLS), the latter of which saw the Cook Islands and American Samoa join 11 other signatories of the Pacific Leader’s Sustainable Tourism Commitment. Importantly, the Council endorsed the Pacific Sustainable Tourism Leadership Summit Recommendations, which will now be used to guide SPTO’s work programme and interactions with donor and development partners.
In his address Hon. Elikana also acknowledged the groundwork laid during the first phase of a New Zealand Government funded project implemented by SPTO. He noted that SPTO is now implementing various activities under Phase 2 – The Pacific Digital Tourism Transformation Project.
Through the updates provided at the SPTO meetings in the Cook Islands over the past week, the Council noted that activities under Phase 2 will build on SPTO’s Strategic Plan and other key frameworks such as the Pacific Sustainable Tourism Policy Framework, Pacific Tourism Statistics Strategy, and SPTO Digital Strategy Framework. The Council also noted that all highlighted policies and projects are linked to the region’s recently endorsed “North Star” – The 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.
Further to the above, the Council also emphasized its commitment to supporting SPTO in its efforts to strengthen regional air connectivity, for the benefit of all of SPTO’s Pacific island members.
One of the final considerations for the Council was the venue for the 2023 Council meeting. To that end, the Council considered and endorsed the bid submitted by the Vice President of French Polynesia, the Hon. Jean-Christophe Bouissou.
In closing, Hon. Elikana noted that with the proper recognition and extended–term support, the Pacific tourism industry can build back better – to be more resilient, sustainable, inclusive, and equitable. As such, he encouraged the Council to work together to attract high-level recognition and support from development partners to benefit SPTO and its diverse membership.
“I urge all Council members to approach the meeting with open minds and one heart- for a unique but united Pacific tourism family, operating within a shared Blue Pacific and benefitting her many people that rely on Pacific tourism for improved and sustainable livelihoods,” Hon Elikana said.